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What happens if I don't pay my bill, and other questions for Irish Water

John Tierney said he didn’t forsee a situation ”where we would have to be taking people to court”. But what will happen to those who don’t pay out?

IT’S BEEN PUT-off, then put-off again — but with the deadline for registration for Irish Water happening (for real this time) on Monday, the issue of water charges is now back in the spotlight.

With a number of left-wing groups advocating a mass boycott of the charges, the question arises — how will the utility pursue those who don’t pay?

Here’s what we know so far…

Irish Water Irish Water boss John Tierney Source: Niall Carson

Speaking to RTÉ in the wake of the announcement of the Government’s revised charging scheme for Irish Water, managing director of the semi-state John Tierney said he didn’t envision a situation “where we would have to be taking people to court”.

A system of late payment fines was announced last November as part of the coalition’s new plan.

But Tierney said:

The aim of Irish Water is to work with people so we’re not getting into penalties of any description.

We’ve been getting a bit more from the Government on the issue this week.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said in an answer to a question from Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley that the soon-to-be-published Water Services Bill 2015 would “make provision for addressing any unpaid water bills relating to domestic property including privately owned and occupied property, private rented accommodation and local authority rented accommodation”.

The issues aren’t covered in the contentious Water Services Act of last year “due to the requirement for additional consultations to take place with stakeholders”.

Tánaiste Joan Burton was also asked about the Bill during Leader’s Questions this week. She didn’t really have much to add, only saying that it would be published shortly and that she was ”sure there will be a very full and detailed debate”.

In a question to Irish Water’s press department last week, we asked how the utility planned to collect on unpaid bills, and whether they intended to use debt collectors. The company responded:

Irish Water will be following up for payment in the same manner as other utilities. However, at this point the focus of the company is to confirm customer information and ensure the delivery of accurate bills in April.

Other questions

Meanwhile, we’ve been putting some of the charges-related questions we received here at TheJournal.ie to Irish Water, as part of this occasional ‘questions for Irish Water’ series.

Just a few this week — but if there’s anything you’d like more detail on, and would like us to follow-up pn, contact us at daragh@thejournal.ie or news@thejournal.ie.

1. I haven’t been sent an Irish Water pack yet. Is the onus on me to apply?

Their answer…

“Irish Water advises anyone that has not yet received a pack to contact Irish Water. Irish Water is asking that people confirm their details to them by 1 February in order that they can be issued an accurate bill in April.

In addition, confirming details to Irish Water also makes the household eligible for the €100 Water Conservation Grant from the Department of Social Protection.

2. I’m moving house in early February — after the deadline. What do I do?

“As with other utilities customers are advised to contact Irish Water directly before they move dwelling. Where a meter has been installed the customer will be advised to note the meter reading on the day of moving out so that they can be charged appropriately.

Customers will be liable for water charges at the new address from the date of occupation.

Our own note here… Charges are ‘capped’ for the moment, and the most any household will pay (if they don’t apply for a grant) is €260. People are still being encouraged to conserve water, and it could get you a rebate down the line, the Government has said.

3.  What’s the advice for landlords, if their tenants won’t pay? There was some uncertainty about this last year. Has it been cleared up? 

“Irish Water is providing landlords with the opportunity to prove that they are not the occupier by providing the tenant’s name.

This will allow Irish Water to contact the tenant for registration purposes and to bill the tenant. A tenant must register with Irish Water to avail of the water conservation grant, to be billed accurately, and to avoid the default maximum charge (€260). New legislation will place certain obligations on a landlord where a tenant has not paid charges.

Read: Here’s how much you’ll be paying for water – and what happens if you don’t

On a different topic entirely: Gay Byrne does NOT look impressed with Stephen Fry talking about an ‘evil God’

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